International Bride: The Weddings of Scotland
by: Michael Kabel

Scotland's ancient history has resulted in some of the most interesting wedding customs and traditions in all of Europe. And true to the Scots' boisterous reputation, the Scottish wedding is a noisy, exuberant celebration that often lasts for days.

Planning a Scottish theme wedding, as a way to celebrate your heritage or just to get a little Caledonian elegance, means getting into a rollicking party but also some charming folk elegance backed by centuries of tradition.

The engagement party and the marriage banns

Scottish couples generally have an engagement get together well before the wedding, hosted by either the bride or groom's parents. It may also take place at the village hall or in a pub.

An old Scottish law called the "marriage banns" obligated the couple to publicly announce their marriage fourteen days in advance. While it's no longer a legal necessity, many couples still make public notice of their wedding two weeks before the big day.

The Stag and Hen parties are a wild night out.

The Stag party is officially the time for the groom's friends to give him a "proper send off," – though this farewell often takes the form of lively pranks. In Fife, for example, groomsmen will sometimes wash the groom's feet in soot, ashes, and grease. In other parts, a groom is dressed in women's clothes and given a pillow or cushion to put under his top, making him appear pregnant.

At the Hen party, the bride's family and friends dress her up in an elaborate gown and smear her face with soot and ashes. As the bride is paraded through the town, they run behind her yelling and shouting to scare off evil spirits. Sometimes, a bridesmaid will carry a small pot for passers-by to throw coins into, making a donation to the new home.

The wedding ceremony is traditional with a Scottish twist.

Most Scottish wedding ceremonies follow their Catholic or Protestant guidelines. The bride may wear a white gown cut in the Victorian style. The traditional groom's uniform is a Prince Charlie coat and vest, kilt with sporran pouch, and brogues with kilt socks and the sgian dubh, or Scottish ceremonial dagger.

The pattern of the kilt and other accessories is a matter of great pride to any Scotsman, as it represents his clan, or extended family. After the ceremony, a kilt-wearing pageboy presents a silver horseshoe to the bride as the new couple leave the church. A bagpiper plays music as the couple walks to their waiting carriage. As they head for the reception, the groom will sometimes throw silver coins for the children wedding guests to pick up.

The reception is a swinging party.

True to form, the Scottish wedding reception includes a full, hearty feast and dancing until the early hours of the next morning. The typical Scottish reception will also include plenty of libations, as well.

In some traditions a party of friends and family waits for the couple to return from their honeymoon, then parades them to their new home and escorts them inside. Another celebration, again with dancing and drinking, often ensues.